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cruseFrom Michael Cruse, the San Francisco Chronicle’s winemaker of the year in 2016 comes this mélange of Valdiguie, Tannat, and a field blend. Valdiguie is a once widely planted grape in California recently fallen on hard times. It makes a fruity, light wine but this blend has some character. Cruse makes a variety of wine styles some of which fall under the category of “natural wines”. Monkey Jacket qualifies since there is no added sulphur, no fining and no filtration.

This is a bright, ebullient wine with candied cherry upfront, gaining a layer of stony minerality on the midpalate, soft but with some tension from subterranean tannins that are surprisingly persistent and drying. This is a bit like quality, Crus Beaujolais but with brighter, rounder fruit. On the nose it’s red berries, clove and cinnamon with bright orange zest highlights and evocative traces of something a bit leesy that comes and goes.

It appears superficially simple, gently amiable with its quiet, yet fulsome fruit power but as it evolves it shows flashes of a quirky, understated asperity, a soft powdery foundation accompanied by high-toned angular acidity darting around the mouth.

Its fun and serious. Good juice.

A Donald Fagen wine, smooth and hip but with subtle sardonic wit. Here comes the H-Gang.

Score: 90

Price: $30 (purchase at Vino Carta or from the winery)

Alc: 13%